The Minute Man Trail, also known as Battle Road is the road which the British marched on to Concord on April 19, 1775. This is the night Paul Revere and William Dawes took their midnight ride made famous in the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The reason this Battle Road is part of the National Parks system is that it is the first fighting that occurred between the colonists and the British. The first battles of the Revolutionary War.
To understand how America got her freedom you must first understand how the Revolutionary War began. Most of the colonial uprisings were in Boston. The Sons of Liberty, a secret military organization is established in August of 1765 in retaliation for the new laws Britain tries to impose on the colonists.
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The Years Before 1775
Up until 1765 when the British passed the Stamp Act, the colonies taxed themselves. The Stamp Act, tax on paper documents tried to recoup monies the British spent on the French and Indian War. The colonists, however, were not happy and rioted in the streets. Eventually, Ben Franklin convinced the British to revoke the Stamp Act.
Next, the British passed the Townshend Act of 1767. This taxed goods the colonists bought from Britain. A board of customs commissioners tried to stop smuggling and corruption. The colonists in return boycotted all British goods subject to taxes. They also started harassing the customs commissioners. Unfortunately, for the colonists, the British sent more troops to occupy Boston.
Since there were more British soldiers in Boston there’s no surprise that they clashed on March 5, 1770. This event, The Boston Massacre, is where the Redcoats and colonists first ‘fought’ outside the Old State House in Boston. You can see the cobblestone circle that marks the spot where this event occurred on the Freedom Trail.
The Tea Act was put in place to help the struggling British East India Company. The British tried to control who the colonists bought their tea and other goods from. On December 16th, 1773 men from the Sons of Liberty dressed up as Mohawks and boarded 3 ships in Boston Harbor, and threw the tea overboard. Later called the Boston Tea Party.
In the spring of 1774, Britain passed the Coercive Acts. A series of acts aimed at making the colonists pay for the tea thrown overboard. The Quartering Act upset the colonists the most. It made the colonist pay for housing the British army in unoccupied houses. This upset the colonists so much that it is one of the grievances written into the Declaration of Independence.
April 19, 1775
On the night of April 18th, the British set out from the Boston Common to march to Concord to seize weapons hidden in Colonel Barrett’s House. The lanterns hung, Paul Revere and William Dawes set out to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock the British were coming.
The British started out from Boston, crossed the Charles River, and set off to Concord. Although they didn’t encounter any resistance until Lexington, the British realize the American’s are willing to fight. The British arrived in Lexington at 4:30 am to find Captain John Parker and 77 minute men waiting for them. Although we aren’t sure exactly what they said, it is clear the minute men were outnumbered.
However, this is still where the shooting started. No one knows who fired the first shot but at the end of the skirmish 8 American’s were dead. From here the British marched on down Battle Road, now the Minute Man Trail, to Concord.
Battle Road aka The Minute Man Trail
As the British marched along Bay Road the colonists retreated. The colonist kept retreating to Punkatasset Hill to watch the British above the town. When they saw smoke from the hill, they decided to go fight. The smoke came from the burning of weapons the British did find in Concord. However, the colonists thought the British were burning down the town.
The colonists made their way to North Bridge. Although the colonists were told not to fire until fired upon. They fought. They fought for their freedom, they fought for their families, they fought for their future.
British soldiers with their victory at Lexington Green fired first. However, they got a big surprise when the colonists fought back. Not only did they fight back but they won this skirmish. While on the hill, reinforcements came and soon the colonists pushed the British back.
By the end, three British soldiers died and four British officers were left wounded. These are the first British men to die in the fighting.
The British Retreat
After the skirmish at North Bridge, the British continued to search for more weapons. Around noontime, they started heading back to Boston. However, the minute men had a surprise for them. The colonists had many more reinforcements and lined Battle Road. Hiding behind stone walls, barns, houses, and trees the minute men continued to fire at the British.
The British met up with their reinforcements in Lexington but not without losing more men, weapons, and clothing along Battle Road. Once the British had their reinforcements the fighting continued all along the road back into Menotomy, present-day Arlington.
It took until nightfall before the British made their way to Charlestown to the H.M.S. Somerset. It took all night to ferry the soldiers back into Boston.
No matter which side you were on it was clear to everyone that the colonists were at war with Britain. Just a few months late the battle rages on at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
British Casualties totaled 273; 73 Killed, 174 wounded, 26 missing.
Colonial casualties totaled 96; 49 killed, 41 wounded, and 5 missing.
Minute Man National Park
Battle Road is the stretch of Bay Road that makes up the Minute Man National Park. To start your visit you should really start in Lexington, at the Lexington Green. The park rangers at the visitors center can give you a map of the trail. They are also a wealth of knowledge about the events of April 1775. If there are any events going on during your visit they will certainly let you know about them.
Buckman Tavern is a fun place to start. Find the original door and see the bullet hole from April 19, 1775. On that morning this is where the 77 minute man waited for the British. The statue of Captain Parker across the street is a tribute to others who lost their lives in 1775.
If you like cemeteries you can see a very pretty one behind the white church on the green. Walk around the church and see this small but old beauty.
Just down Hancock Street, you can see Hancock-Clarke House. This house is a National Historic Landmark because it is the only surviving house that John Hancock lived in.
You can also visit the Munroe Tavern. The British used the tavern as they retreated back to Boston. They stopped here to attend to their wounded and get something to eat and drink. Later in 1789, George Washington dined here while he visited the battle sites of Lexington and Concord.
Start at the North Bridge visitors center. You can wander the grounds and explore North Bridge. The Minute Man statue depicts a farmer with his plow and a musket that honors those who fought here. The bridge that you walk across isn’t the bridge from 1775 but you can still understand how important this battle is to the colonists. This is the place where ‘the shot heard round the world’ happened. There is a gravestone for British soldiers at the base of the bridge. Although the marker states there are three soldiers buried there, it’s actually only two.
Don’t miss the Old Manse at North Bridge. This is where Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote his essay Nature. Years later Nathaniel Hawthorne lived here with his wife.
Walking through Concord’s downtown area and seeing all the historical sites there is something to add to your trip.
The Sites Along The Minute Man Trail
The Minute Man Trail really chronicles the retreat of the British soldiers out of Concord. To understand the fighting that took place on Battle Road start at Meriam’s Corner. Here you will find Meriam House where the colonists first attacked the British army on their way back to Boston.
You can park here and walk the trail. It is a lovely wooden trail you are sure to love. However, there are several places to park along the trail if you’d prefer not to walk there and back to pick up your car.
Besides the witness houses, you will see a few other important sites along the trail. Don’t miss the houses though, some of them you can go in and see what it was like in colonial times.
Meriam House is the first of 11 witness houses that saw the fighting on April 19th, 1775. If the house is open to the public I’d suggest going in and looking around. The houses that are open depict colonial life and have some great exhibits.
Look on both sides of the road, you will see farmland. The national park service has preserved this farmland and keeps it as it was in 1775. In addition to the farmland, the park service has some cattle and if you’re lucky you will see them grazing in the field.
Just before Hartwell Tavern, a sharp angle in the road which now goes by Bloody Angle, is where the colonist’s second attack on the British happens. The British lose even more men here on their retreat.
Hartwell Tavern is a great building to wander through. If you time your visit to coincide with a ranger program you will surely enjoy the activity. My kids have participated in a regiment training drill and we’ve seen a musket shooting at the Hartwell Tavern as well.
Captain William Smith’s House is the next witness house along the Minute Man Trail. Captain Smith was the leader of the Lincoln minute men. The British left behind a wounded soldier who was cared for but later died. He is buried nearby.
Fun Fact: Captain Smith was the brother of Abigail Smith Adams. First lady to President John Adams, our second President.
Paul Revere’s Captain Site
Paul Revere’s Capture Site a circular stone monument commemorates the place where Paul Revere was detained by the British patrol for two hours of questioning. He was released when the patrol heard gunshots from the approaching minute men.
Luckily even though William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott were also captured they were able to escape. Dawes, however, lost his horse and walked back to Lexington. In the end, Prescott was able to ride on into Concord to warn the minute men the British were coming.
Parker’s Revenge is a rocky hill along Bay Road. Captain Parker gathered his men after the 4:30 am battle and marched them onto this area of Bay Road. They were able to hide among the rock and surprise the British. The British were not prepared for the bombardment from the colonists but charged the hill anyway. Although the colonists lost some men they showed their grit and determination to stand up for their freedom. This is really how the colonists eventually won the war. They just didn’t give up.
Fighting Toward the End of Battle Road
The last of the witness houses for you to explore is the Jacob Whittemore House. I hope you do check out all the different houses along the Minute Man Trail. Some are more ornate than others but they certainly will give you a good look into how the colonists lived in 1775.
After the British passed the Whittemore House concealed minute men along with Captain Parker’s Lexington company bombard them with rifle fire. The British forged on and up to Bloody Bluff. From this higher vantage point, the Regulars were able to fire upon the minute men with some accuracy. However, more minute men were waiting for them at Fiske Hill.
Fiske Hill has the remnants of the Fiske house and a monument to a British soldier and James Hayward who killed each other during the 1775 battle. Many colonists hid among the trees near Fiske House which put the British under constant attack on their retreat.
It wasn’t until the British made their way back to Lexington did they receive any reinforcements. This allowed the British to ward off the minute men in Menotomy, present-day Arlington. However, minute men from all the surrounding towns were alerted and came to fight.
The British only just made their way onto Charlestown neck ahead of more minute men coming from Salem. The British, finally safe in Charlestown could rest.
After the Fighting
In all 4,000 minute men, answered the “Lexington Call” and come to fight on April 19th. By week’s end, 20,000 minute men surround Boston and trap the British there. The siege lasts 11 months. In June the Battle of Bunker Hill will be fought.
Soldiers were then recruited to serve until the end of the year. From a loose collection of minute and militia companies an army began to take shape, a plan became reality, and the daydream of independency started to grow in the minds of the people.National Parks Service Website
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I hope you enjoy learning about American history as much as I do. I’m extremely grateful for our forefathers who fought and won independence for us today. Never forget how they put it all on the line for their beliefs. We are all free because of it. I hope you get a chance to come to Massachusetts and explore these battlefields and places where the fighting all began. It really does give you an understanding of what it was like.
Let me know if you have visited. What your favorite part is and did you participate in any ranger programs or militia training?